My Psychological and Spiritual Odyssey!

I’d Rather Be….that ‘Wanderer’! — March 17, 2018

I’d Rather Be….that ‘Wanderer’!


I ordered my third Chai (tea) in just about an hour while I was sitting on the stairs beside Pappu chiwala (chai seller) on Assi Ghat. The Ganga arati was just over and the crowd had started dispersing. The constant buzzing of people’s chit chat, the sound of water waves created through the boats, the Sanskrit shloka recitation from the adjacent Tulsi ghat  along with the serene temple bell’s sound, while I was looking at the group of kids blissfully enjoying flying kites, all were really tranquilizing my mind. I just wanted to shut my mind for a while from all my worldly engagements, from my own identity, from the worldly expectations. I did not want to be alert and proactive about my responsibilities for sometime. I just wanted to loosen myself to flow steadily, to have my moment of pondering over “what I want to be”.

Little away from the stairs where I was sitting, this little calf was testing the stamina of the Haridas Sadhu. The langot he had left there to dry was now not only wet but also not very useful anymore to be able to conceal the desired skin, it was torn apart. Haridas chased the calf with best of his ability but gave up soon enough. The calf was back to the mother cow and was giving a victorious look to the old Sadhu while still chewing the remains of langot. Haridas gave the smiling look to the little calf, as if saying “well played mate”. The unspoken language on which this beautiful relationship was hinged, could be smelt everywhere in the air on that ghat, it was magical. I immediately stood and walked up to Haridas, who had by then returned to his gang of Sadhus to consume his share of chillum puff . I am not sure what I was thinking and what urged me to go to them, but the fact is I was there sitting with those Sadhus on Assi ghat for hours on that December cold evening.

Even though I had never met any sadhu till then, but I always had imaginations of meeting one and unrolling my curious mind before him. I had a hint of being me with those curious questions but I felt being consumed with the velvet like soft persona of these Sadhus. I was just listening to them. They were so unaffected by things around, they were talking, singing, laughing, all together without a pattern and every expression was loud and clear, nothing to hide and be measured before expressing. Ramawadh, it’s time to go to  Manikarnika ghat and enjoy the great show, said one of the Sadhus. Come on son, we will show you the real world, said Haridas while patting on my right shoulder. We were at the greatest shamshan on earth, Manikarnika ghat. There were at least twenty to thirty dead bodies, ready for cremation at that moment. There were family members and relatives of each of the departed ones. Look there, they all are in either confused or distraught state of mind. Distraught is understandable but why confused, isn’t it what you are thinking, smiled Ramawadh. There are those who are absorbed in the memories of the departed soul, they are seeing the burning fire but are not quite there to feel the pain, instead are with the free soul. Then there are few who are in extreme pain because they are exactly there seeing the body burning in the fire and they are feeling helpless for failing to save from the fire. There are many who are trying to believe that they are sad because it is their moral duty to be sad. There are many who know they are not very sad but they are pretending to be sad because after sometime it will be discussed who was sad and who was not. The only one there who is ecstatic, is the blissful free soul.

After spending sometime there, while standing on the junction of two extreme manifestation of reality – life and death, my vision was clearer as never before. The ego got a decisive dent and showed me the mirror. It is time for the dinner, we could arrange only for few potatoes today, said one of them. I took the responsibility to arrange for the bonfire and some more potatoes as well. I literally went up to few shopkeepers, in the nearby market and asked for some wood, a matchstick and some potatoes for dinner. I was damned by few but at last someone expressed mercy. In all those years, I could never felt as light and relieved while begging for those things. It was not the first time that I asked for a help from strangers but earlier I acted as equal, this time I was truly humble and literally begging. It was as if I could offload all my worldly identities and washed myself clean. I felt pure and very light. The need getting recognized, respected for my identity has suddenly vanished. This is a rule of the Sadhu gang, to depend on the world for their bodily needs. World call this lack of self-respect but Sadhus use this as tool to control their ego. We sang some Ram bhajans while we ate our dinner. I borrowed a blanket from Ramawadh for sleeping. We slept just there on the stairs of the Kedar ghat around the bonfire we had lit. I was having the best sleep of my life, for I did not have to think about tomorrow, for I was free from feeding to the fake ego all those years. I slept happy in that cold night.

The sci-fi ringtone of my iphone was loud enough to awake me, the screen said it is ‘Papa’. The dinner is ready and you have to complete your packing as well, come back  immediately. I just remembered, I had to fly to Delhi for my flight to Pittsburgh. Suddenly I realized, I had just finished my fourth chai while still sitting on the stairs beside Pappu Chaiwala. I turned back and saw Haridas Sadhu was still enjoying his chillum puff and could only mumble to myself:

I’d Rather Be….that ‘Wanderer’!

I’d Rather Be…

Love Story — March 11, 2018
The Ageless ‘Story’!! —
Black & White is “swEEt” — March 8, 2018
That Extra Chromosome which makes her ‘Out of the World’! — March 2, 2018

That Extra Chromosome which makes her ‘Out of the World’!


“The earth, together with all of its countries and people”, is what Oxford dictionary has to say about the word “World”. The ‘Earth’ represents the external gaze to this spherical entity hanging in the Universe, while ‘World’ is a perception from within (an inside out look). ‘Perception’, because it provides the flexibility to extend it beyond geographical entities, to the people, society, cultures etc. It therefore helps to accommodate numerous definitions of the world, which otherwise has inherent subjective nature.

What I am really trying to establish is, ‘World’ is not exactly what we see, but is a psychological phenomenon. The continents, the countries, the buildings, the bridges, the rivers, mountains, the GDPs, the markets, the inventions, the loved ones, the enemies, all constitute our world.  We all are slaves of our worldly definitions. We live by our definitions, we struggle to standby our definitions, we laugh, cry, emote over our definitions and at last die within the parameters of our definitions. Throughout our life we learn and then propagate the definition of ‘desirable’. Any variation would be termed abnormal. Abnormality can attract varied emotions based on how it fits or rather misfits the defined parameter of the worldly normal.

Here is my ‘Out of the world’ account from my life, pick your worldly and unworldly components:

The news broke to me as soon as I returned from office, it is a baby girl. Juhi was making tea for me while I sat on the kitchen platform and we shared our relief for this news and the fact that baby and the mother are doing ok. All of us were very nervous considering the pregnancy complications Bhabhi (sister in law) had to go through. She went through a lot during this whole period. The baby was apparently weak but nothing serious as we gathered from everyone. We all were rejoicing the fact that everything ended well and were thanking God, there was even sweet distribution in the hospital and many relatives were astonished to notice the celebration following birth of a baby girl. In all this though, Mummy was still nervous for she had sensed something which none, including the doctor had noticed. Mothers have a unique sense of responsibility for almost everything involving the family which gives them that element of sixth sense. Mummy has this habit of keeping things to herself, especially the worrisome ones, until it is unavoidable or is resolved. As soon as the baby was born, Mummy was quick to spot certain symptoms apart from the fact that she did not cry. This was enough to make her enormously nervous. The good news was yet to reach her. She contacted the doctors and they too expressed their doubts. In just couple of days it was clear to her that the baby is a ‘Down Syndrome’ baby. She did not share this with anyone except Papa and partially to her daughter Juhi. She did not have enough courage yet to share this with Vidhu Bhaiya (Elder brother) and Bhabhi, the parents of the baby. Someday it was to be revealed to them and it did not take too long. It was only few weeks after the birth, while Bhaiya was routinely scanning through  the TV channels through remote, something stuck him instantly on one of the random channel. It was a health program and the doctor was explaining Down syndrome symptoms. At times one wonders, how suddenly he or she is familiarized with a completely strange thing for the first time and then it keeps on coming. Those ten minutes on TV would remain the most intensely attentive moments of his life. It did not take much time for him to reach BHU hospital with all the medical documents of the baby which so far he has not paid attention to. The inevitable happened at last, and he was now aware of the undeniable truth about his share of heart beat. After few moments the frozen him, loosened and he respired to sense the life, he saw people around in the hospital doing their business but he only wanted to immediately reach to his baby girl and grab her, hide her into his arms, close to his heart to protect her from everything.

Few initial weeks were completely engrossed with the ‘why us’ sentiment. In the meantime the baby got her name ‘Chhavi’, the most pronounced word in the family for the lifetime. She was still very weak and everyone’s  look on her continued to have care and protection than an element of love, let alone a blissful interaction. The ‘world’ had started disbursing their responsibility of expressing sympathy. There were some genuine empathy, some social formalities and some blunt expression of pity almost declaring loudly, she is not welcomed. Some cursed the doctors, for not finding in time so that she could have been aborted in time. She was certainly not fit to the worldly definition of ‘desirable’. All this while, Papa was the only one who would play with her, cheer her without much response in return with the patience and hope, comparable to pacific ocean. No doubt he is a true Hanuman Bhakt !

While Bhabhi was getting ready for the daily routine and simultaneously checking out the kitchen, Vidhu Bhaiya was still lying on the bed. He was little lazy today, he slipped himself a bit towards Chhavi and laid on his sides, adjacent to her and started caressing her. Suddenly her eyes twinkled and she made her first straight eye contact with  her father. That momentary gaze of her pierced through his heart and instantly reached his soul. That was the last day when anyone in the family was worried, sad or with tiniest of despair, of the fact that Chhavi is different. Every single day since then, has been celebration.

She is the most blissful character I have ever witnessed, always happy, smiling giggling. When you go to her wanting to interact with her, she would come very close to you, would look straight into your eye for an extended moment and then you realize the squinting eyes are pouring divinity, saying thousands of words instantly. You just cannot look away, you would feel arrested. In no exaggerating terms, she is the one in whom I have sensed the possibility of God and has helped in restoring my spiritual quest.  We celebrate Chhavi every moment and thank God for choosing us, rather blessing us. Juhi once showed me an article mentioning a couple with a down syndrome child, who later adopted another down syndrome child. They said, one has to have such ‘out of the world’ child to understand how blissful it is. We looked at each other and only smiled for finding such a similar emotion which we would never be able to explain to anyone.

Chhavi is 8 years old now. In all our celebrations, we all are conscious of our worldly duties to train her with worldly skills to get her acceptable to the world. But believe me, she is very slippery, she manages to slip through with her squinting and smiling eyes, whispering “I have that extra thing making me ‘Out of the World’, isn’t it”. I say yes, you are my darling!



IMG_0161 (1)

Out of This World

The ‘Face’ called Wisdom…in the crowd of Beliefs! — February 23, 2018

The ‘Face’ called Wisdom…in the crowd of Beliefs!

Face in the crowd

If I am able to see and recognize “Faces” around, it affirms that I have eyes. If I have eyes to see, brain to observe, mind to think, heart to feel, and ways to express, it only confirms that “I” exist. If I exist, I must be wearing a worldly identity. A worldly identity assures a worldly name in return. The world has a habit of validating the name with a “Face” and the “Face” with a name. I have a good news to share, I have both – a name and a face.

Let’s reverse the gaze and the direction of correlation and deduction. If the name and face exist in  recognizable terms it surely confirms the existence of a certain identity which further could be attributed with eyes, brain, heart and all the sensory tools for enabling the communication channel with the world. But this reverse gaze has aberrations, it does not always guarantee to deconstruct the identity to the level of discovering sensory tools like eyes, brain etc. The name guarantees existence of an identity (real or abstract) but surely not a face, the face on the other hand  guarantees both a name and an identity. Both do not guarantee to be necessarily equipped with sensory tools. Feelings could have names but not faces and certainly not sensory tools for themselves to manifest other aspects of expressions. An idol could possess both a name and a face but surely not the sensory tools.

The riddle is solved now. ‘Face’ is a visual manifestation of a certain existence and ‘Name’ is a lingual manifestation of the same. While human beings have been able to evolve to invent  languages to infuse life into even abstract existence, the human evolution in terms of visual perception and expression has been relatively slower. It has consistently lacked the ability to at least perceive if not express the abstract realities, visually. It has failed to infuse a visual life in abstract existences by facilitating a face.

Life is not just a breathing game. A lifeless Shunya (zero) could be deconstructed into identities with positive and negative nature and the electric current be infused bearing the flag called life. So life in reality is nothing but interaction between identities which could be abstract or real or for that matter both. The abstract realities could be manifested through faces provided imaginative capabilities are exploited. Believe me, we too are as abstract if seen through a different frame of reference. God’s frame of reference. We are just a visual manifestation of God, we are ‘Faces’!

When I shot this picture, I was looking at the face called wisdom, crowded with the worldly claims to wisdom full with ego.

A Face called Shailendra!

A Face in the Crowd

यदा यदा ही धर्मस्य… — February 12, 2018

यदा यदा ही धर्मस्य…

गाँव जाना मुझे हमेशा ही अच्छा लगता रहा है, मेरे चेहरे के अतिउत्साह को साफ़ पढ़ा जा सकता है, गाँव जाने के उल्लेख मात्र से। जब भी हम गाँव जाते थे तो रास्ता जैसे कटता ही नहीं था जब तक की हम गाँव के बाज़ार तक ना पहुँच जाएँ।मँगारी बाज़ार बाबतपुर स्टेशन से लगा ही हुआ है। सैकड़ों बार ऐसा हुआ है जब हम स्टेशन के प्लाट्फ़ोर्म से जो की उस स्टेशन का एकमात्र प्लैट्फ़ॉर्म है, निकलकर सीधे कन्हैयालाल की मिठाई की दुकान पर आ धमके हैं। कन्हैयालाल की दुकान स्टेशन से बाज़ार में प्रवेश करने पर सबसे पहली दुकान है और हम अपने घर जाने के लिए प्रायः इसी रास्ते से जाने लगे थे, दूसरा रास्ता रेल की पटरियों के साथ होते हुए जाता था जो अधिकांशतः सुनसान रहता है। इसलिए मिठाई के दुकान का सामना हो ही जाता था। उस दुकान के अगले हिस्से में पड़े शीसे के बक्से में जो इमरतियों का भंडार रखा रहता था उसका प्रतिबिम्ब आज भी मेरे मस्तिष्क में आइने की तरह साफ़ है। कहते हैं कुछ दृश्य आपके दिमाग़ में किन्हीं करणो से अमिट हो जाते हैं और कन्हैयालाल के दुकान में पड़ी उन इमरतियों का लाल रंग भी एक रहस्यमी ढंग से दिमाग़ में घर कर गयी है। वैसे उस दुकान का उल्लेख हुआ हो और मैं उसी साँस में बाबतपुर स्टेशन की चर्चा ना करूँ, ये कैसे सम्भव है। मुझे रेलवे स्टेशन पर जाना, बैठना और वहाँ समय व्यतीत करना बहुत अच्छा लगता है, बचपन से ही। बचपन में शायद इसलिए क्यूँकि मुझे एक साथ इतने सारे अपरिचित लोगों को देखने का मौक़ा मिलता था और फिर मैं कल्पना के परों से उन अपरिचित चेहरों की कहानियाँ गढ़ता था, जैसे वो कौन हैं, कहाँ जा रहे हैं, क्यूँ जा रहे हैं, कौन उनका इंतज़ार कर रहे हैं, यहाँ तक कि उनके जीवन की जटिलताओं का, सुख, दुःख का सदृश्य निर्माण करता था। पहले ये सिर्फ़ मेरी आदत थी, थोड़ी विचित्र, अविश्वसनीय और कुछ हास्यात्पद भी। मेरी मित्र रुचिरा जो शायद अकेली ऐसी है जिसको मैंने इसके बारे में बताया है, उसका एक अलग ही दृष्टिकोण है, वो कहती है कि मुझे टीवी, फ़िल्में इत्यादि देखने का मौक़ा नहीं मिलता था और चूँकि मुझे कहानियाँ बहुत पसंद है तो मैं उन समय ख़ुद ही कहानियाँ गढ़ने लगता हूँ । अब जबकि मैं थोड़ा वयस्क हो गया हूँ तो मेरी यह आदत भी थोड़ी वयस्क हुई है, अब इन स्टेशन के पात्रों के प्रति मेरा दृष्टिकोण सिर्फ़ कहानियों तक सीमित नहीं रहा बल्कि मैं कहानी के अगले आयाम को बुननें का प्रयास करता हूँ या शायद सुलझाने का प्रयास करता हूँ जो कि सामाजिक और आध्यात्मिक जंजाल में उलझे हुए हैं। ख़ैर बात बाबतपुर स्टेशन की हो रही थी और अपने इस अनोखे शौक़ के बारे में बताने का कारण बस इतना ज्ञात कराना है कि से मेरी ये कहानी गढ़ने की यात्रा का शुभआरम्भ इसी स्टेशन के एक किरदार से हुई थी, वह उस स्टेशन का एकमात्र क़ुली था, झूरी नाम था उनका।

इस बार गाँव जाने का मेरा मन बिलकुल नहीं था। कॉलेज में कुछ दिनों की छुट्टी थी साइनडाई के वजह से जो दूसरे समेस्टर के परीक्षा के दौरान बवाल से उपजा था। पिलिकोठी हॉस्टल की हमारी मित्र मंडली बहुत प्रसन्न थी और हमने निर्णय किया था कि हम घर नहीं जाएँगे, बल्कि वहीं रहकर ढेर सारा क्रिकेट खेलेंगे, फ़िल्में देखेंगे, बाहर कहीं लम्बी यात्रा की योजना बना सकते हैं जैसे आगरा, लखनऊ इत्यादि। हम सब बहुत उत्साहित थे इन सभी योजनाओं से। लेकिन दो तीन दिनों में ही बात घर पहुँच गयी सबके और धीरे धीरे करके सबको घर जाना पड़ा। इसी दौरान गाँव से सरपंच के चुनाव की ख़बर आयी और हम सबको गाँव जाना था वोट देने। गाँव में चुनावों में बड़ा माहौल होता है, पंचायती चुनाव में तो उम्मीदवार व्यक्तिगत तौर पर यह सुनिश्चित करते हैं कि हर एक सम्भावित वोटर बूथ तक आए। लोकतंत्र तो सच में भारत के गाँवों में ही बसता है और लोग इस लोकतांत्रिक प्रक्रिया को किसी त्योहार से कमतर नहीं आँकते।इस प्रक्रिया से कुछ मिलता नहीं गाँवों को परंतु वह इतनी गम्भीर बात नहीं है, मज़ा तो मिलता है ना, और उससे बढ़कर लोगों को अपने शक्ति का अहसास होता है, ऐसे लोग जिन्हें वह बहुत बड़ा समझते हैं जिनसे आँख मिलकर बात करने की उनकी साहस नहीं होती वो भी उनके द्वार पर विनम्रता से सुसज्जित पाए जाते हैं, इससे बड़ा सुख क्या होगा। हमारे घर भी दो उम्मीदवारों का निमंत्रण आया, दोनो ही बनारस के हमारे घर गाड़ी भेजकर सभी परिवारजन को गाँव तक आराम से पहुँचाने को आतुर थे। हमारा गाँव बनारस शहर से कुल पच्चीस तीस किलॉमीटर ही दूर है, चूँकि बनारस का हवाई अड्डा हमारे गाँव से लगा भी हुआ है तो साधन भी बहुत मिल जाते हैं। पिताजी ने दोनो ही उम्मीदवारों को मना कर दिया, कहा कि हम स्वयं ही आ जाएँगे। सक्षम थे स्वयं जाने में इससे बढ़कर कारण यह था कि नैतिक रूप से जवाबदेह नहीं होना चाहते थे किसी के प्रति। हमारे परिवार से सभी लोग पढ़ लिख कर शहर में आ गए थे, चूँकि छोटी दादी और बड़ी दादी दोनो ही गाँव में ही रहती थीं और गाँव भी कोई विशेष दूर नहीं था तो बड़ों का आना जाना लगा ही रहता था। पिताजी और उनके सभी भाई बड़े ही अच्छे सरकारी ओहदों पर कार्यरत हैं, हम सब चचेरे भाई बहन भी अच्छे खासे पढ़ लिख रहे थे, इन सब बातों को ग़ौर करके गाँव में हमारे परिवार का बड़ा सम्मान है और हमारे घर के किसी उम्मीदवार के प्रति झुकाव का कुछ तो प्रभाव रहता ही है। इस बार तो मेरे और मेरे अन्य हमउम्र चचेरे भाई बहनो के मिला कर कम से कम चार और वोट जुड़ गए थे जिससे कुल संख्या क़रीब बीस की हो गयी थी। ख़ैर मेरा मन तो अभी भी अपने कॉलेज के मित्रों के साथ बनाए सारे योजनाओं पर पानी फिरने से उबारा नहीं था, बिलकुल स्वीकार्य नहीं था मुझे इन सब के बीच गाँव जाना वो भी वोट देने। लेकिन पिताजी की आज्ञा आज भी ब्रह्मवाक्य होता है और हम निकल पड़े गाँव के लिए।
एस जे वी एक्सप्रेस्स में बैठे कई साल हो गए थे और उसमें बैठते ही जैसे समय सिकुड़ गया हो और बचपन के वो सारे अनुभव एक पल में मन को छू सा गया हो। बाबतपुर स्टेशन पहुँचते पहुँचते मेरे मन की कुंठा अब धीरे धीरे शांत सी होने लगी थी, उसका स्थान बचपन की स्मृतियाँ ले रही थीं। ट्रेन के उस अनारक्षित डिब्बे में बैठे मुझे अपने आसपास विविधताओं से भरपूर किरदार नज़र आ रहे थे, मानो जैसे मेरे मन मस्तिष्क के रचनात्मक सतह में स्पंदन सा होने लगा हो। ऐसे मौक़ों पर प्रायः मन के भावनात्मक, रचनात्मक, तार्किक और आध्यात्मिक इकाइयाँ एक साथ सक्रिय हो जाते हैं और ऐसा लगता है मानो तरल अवस्था को प्राप्त कर हिड़ोलें मारने लगते हों। मन मस्तिष्क के यह सभी परतें क्रमबद्ध तरीक़े से बचपन से वर्तमान समय तक सक्रिय हुए हैं। घर में माता पिता और भाई बहन के अपार स्नेह और पारिवारिक संस्कारों ने मुझे भावुक बनाया। बचपन में गरमी के छुट्टियों के दौरान गाँव में सबसे ज़्यादा समय दादाजी के कमरे से चुराकर रामायण और महाभारत की पुस्तकों को पढ़ने में व्यतीत होता था। आठ दस वर्ष की आयु में इन अच्छी ख़ासी मोटी ग्रंथों का पाठन थोड़ा अटपटा लगता है लेकिन मेरे लिए वो सबसे अच्छे पल हुआ करते थे, लगता था मानो मैं उसी संसार में पहुँच गया हूँ और हर एक पात्रों से मेरा परिचय हो। सभी पात्रों के प्रति मेरी अपनी राय होती थी। रामायण में मुझे हनुमानजी से और महाभारत में भीम और कर्ण से सबसे अधिक लगाव था। मुझे किन्हीं कारणों से हमेशा मुख्य किरदारों से थोड़ी दिक़्क़त होती थी बल्कि उन किरदारों के प्रति ज़्यादा लगाव होता था जो निस्वार्थी होने के साथ साथ मेरी समझ से लेखक द्वार उपेक्षित होते थे। मैं हनुमान जी का भक्त हो गया था शायद, बस यह सिद्ध करने के लिए की हनुमान जी सबसे शक्तिशाली थे, मैंने ना जाने कितना रीसर्च किया।मैं ऐसी कहानियों की तलाश में रहता था जिससे सिद्ध हो जाए की हनुमान जी भगवान राम से भी शक्तिशाली थे, किसी सुयोग्य किरदार का वक्तव्य भी पर्याप्त होता। इन सभी ग्रंथों, कहानियों ने मेरे मन के भावनात्मक सतह में रचनात्मक लेप लगा दिया था। मैं अपने भावुक मन को सतयुग, त्रेतायुग से लेकर द्वापरयुग में विचरण करता पाता था। सातवीं आठवीं कक्षा तक पहुँचते पहुँचते मन की कोमलता का क्षय होने लगा था, शायद पढ़ाई लिखाई में नए और जटिल विषयों के आगमन के साथ साथ पिताजी के सख़्त अनुशासन ने मेरे कोमल मन को वास्तविकता के कठोर धरातल पर खींच लाया था। एक बार इस धरातल पर आ गया तो मुझे इतिहास पढ़ने में रुचि हुई साथ साथ सामाजिक पहलुवों के दर्शन हुए। गणित मेरा सर्वाधिक पसंदीदा विषय था इतिहास के साथ साथ, यह एक विचित्र मेल था। इस मेल से मेरा झुकाव एक तर्कसंगत समाजशास्त्र के तरफ़ होने लगा था। अब मैं रामायण और महाभारत के किरदारों से आगे बढ़ चुका था। स्कूल में गणित के जटिल सवालों को हाल करने में अपने आप को दूसरे सहपथियों से श्रेस्ठ पा अच्छा लगने लगा था। मन से तो मैं भावुक ही था सो अच्छे मित्र भी बनाए लेकिन मन की तरलता ने मुझे कभी अध्ययन के दौरान एक जगह केंद्रित नहीं होने दिया जिसके कारण मैं कभी सर्वश्रेष्ठ नहीं हो सका। इस बात की तो कभी शिकायत भी नहीं थी मुझे, क्यूँकि जो सर्वश्रेष्ठ थे – रोहित और अवनीश वह अपने अपने कारणों से योग्य भी थे और मुझे कहीं ना कहीं पता था कि मैं वह नहीं हो सकता। हाँ लेकिन इन सबके बावजूद की मेरा मन एक साथ कई सतहों पर सक्रिय था मुझे यह विश्वास था की मैं अपने परीक्षा के परिणामों से ज़्यादा योग्य था। अपने और पिताजी के अपेक्षाओं पर बारम्बार खरा ना उतरने से मन कुंठित सा रहने लगा, ऐसा विश्वास होने लगा की मैं दुर्भाग्यशाली हूँ। अपने दुर्भाग्य के लिए मैं ईश्वर को कोसने भी लगा। ईश्वर के प्रति उदासीनता के साथ साथ मेरे सामाजिक विषमताओं के प्रति जागरुकता ने मेरा ध्यान वामपंथी विचारों के तरफ़ आकर्षित किया। अब मेरे विचार और किसी विषय का विश्लेषण मुख्यतः तर्क से निर्धारित होने लगे थे। विज्ञान और गणित ने मेरे मन के विश्लेषक हिस्से पर क़ब्ज़ा कर लिया था। लेकिन कहते हैं ना कि किसी के संस्कारों और जड़ो में यदि कोई पल्लव अंकुरित हुए हों तो वो कितनी ही विषम परिस्थितियों में किसी ना किसी रूप में विद्यमान अवश्य होते हैं, कम मात्रा में ही क्यूँ ना हो। बीएचयू स्कूल से घर जाते समय अनगिनत बार नरियाँ वाले रास्ते पर एक तिराहे पर विद्यमान हनुमान और शिव मंदिर के समक्ष मेरा वामपंथी मन नतमस्तक हुआ है। उस शिव मंदिर के सामने से गुज़रते समय मुझे आस पास हर कोई शिव नज़र आता था, दूध की बालटी लिए साइकल पर बैठे हुए शिव की छवि मेरे मन में आज भी साफ़ है। ग्यारहवीं कक्षा के आस पास शायद मैंने वो भयावह पर विचित्र सपना देखा था जिसके बाद मुझे ईश्वर को मानने या यूँ कहें तो खोजने की या सिद्ध करने की प्रेरणा मिली। मैं उस दोराहे पर खड़ा था जहाँ एक तरफ़ तो पहले से ही सिद्ध दर्पण की तरह स्पष्ट साफ़ विज्ञान था जिसे मैं महसूस करने के साथ साथ देख सकता था सुन सकता था तो दूसरी तरफ़ ईश्वर के प्रति बढ़ती जा रही मेरी आस्था जो मैं महसूस कर सकता था जो शायद मेरी आवश्यकता बन गयी थी लेकिन विज्ञान के सतह पर वह अंधविश्वास से ज़्यादा कुछ नहीं था। उन दिनों ईश्वर को ना छू पाने की व्याकुलता से जो वेदना मिलती थी उससे मैं कई रातों को अचानक उठ कर रोया भी करता था। ऐसे ही मौक़ों पर हर बार मै ठान लेता था कि मैं विज्ञान के द्वारा ही, ईश्वर हैं ऐसा सिद्ध कर दूँगा। उन्ही दिनों मेरा साक्षात्कार क्वांटम फ़िज़िक्स जो हमारे स्कूल के पाठ्यक्रम में जुड़ा नया विषय था, उससे हुआ। शुरूवाती कुछ अध्ययन में ही ऐसा लगा जैसे मेरे हाथ कुछ ऐसी विद्या लग गयी है जिससे मैं ईश्वर को खोज निकालूँगा। थेओरी ऑफ़ रिलेटिविटी तो ऐसा सिद्धांत था जिसे मैं हर जगह लगा देता था। आज अतीत में पीछे मुड़कर देखता हूँ तो लगता है कि मैं कितना नादान था, आज भी ईश्वर को छूने की चाह में घड़ी के पेंडलम की तरह कभी आकस्मिक हर्ष और उत्तेजना होती है तो कभी घोर निराशा जब स्वयं को उस दिव्या स्थिति से कोसों दूर सांसारिक प्रपंचों में जकड़ा हुआ पाता हूँ।नादान था पर मूर्ख नहीं क्यूँकि अपने इस आध्यात्मिक अन्वेषण में यह पाया की मार्ग भी संभवत यही था, दूसरा और कोई नहीं।
स्टेशन से निकलकर कन्हैयालाल की दुकान पार करते हुए हम बाज़ार के पक्के सड़क पर आ गए थे। ख़ैर पक्के सड़क से बस सौ मीटर की दूरी चलकर ही विदाई लेनी थी, वहाँ आगे से हम अधपक्के या यूँ कहें तो अधकच्चे सड़क पर उतर आए जो हमें गाँव के घर तक पहुँचाता। अब मैं पूरी तरह मन की कुंठा को पीछे छोड़कर वर्तमान में आ गया था जहाँ मुझे हर्ष और उल्लास का अनुभव कर रहा था और मन ही मन रामलोचन और खरपत्तु जी, जो इस चुनाव में उम्मीदवार हैं उनको धन्यवाद दे रहा था की इसी बहाने मैं पुनः गाँव आ पाया इतने वर्षों के पश्चात। घर पहुँचते ही बड़ी दादी और छोटी दादी दोनों ही वहीं बाहर आम के पेड़ के नीचे बैठे मिल गयीं। उनके साथ उस समय लिब्बन भी बैठी थीं, गाँव की कहाँरिन थीं और दादी के सुख दुःख की अगर ये कहें की पहरेदार थीं तो अतिशयोक्ति ना होगी। जो भी कुछ थोड़ा बहुत खेत है गाँव में उसमें वो अधिया के हिसाब से खेती मज़दूरी करती थीं। इसके अलावा वह घर के छोटे मोटे काम भी कर देती थी, दादी की बड़ी मदद हो जाती थी उनसे। मैंने दोनो दादियों के चरण स्पर्श किए और फिर लिब्बन के चरणों की तरफ़ आगे बढ़ा, मन में शंका थी वैसे कि सामने से क्या आने वाला है पर फिर भी मैं आगे बढ़ा। लिब्बन ने जैसा मैंने सोचा था अचानक घबराकर मेरे हाथ पकड़ लिए, बोलीं “बाभन होके हमार गोड़ काहें छूवत हौवह, हमके पाप लगी”। यह भोजपुरी बोली है, हिंदी की अपभ्रंश जो पूर्वांचल क्षेत्र की आम बोलचाल की भाषा है। ख़ैर मैंने बस इतना कहा की हम अगर उनके चरण स्पर्श नहीं करेंगे तो हमको पाप लगेगा और उसके बाद उस बात को वहीं ख़त्म कर दिया। हमारे सत्कार में लिब्बन घर से गुड़ और पानी लेते आयीं। पिताजी ने लाई चना भून कर लाने का आग्रह किया नमक मिर्च के साथ। मुझे आम के पेड़ से टकराती हवाओं से जो आवाज़ आ रही थी वो मन को बहुत सुख दे रही थी। वहाँ से दूर तक फैली हुई खेत की हरियाली की साँय साँय करती लहलहावट, कहीं दूर से पम्प सेट के चलने की आवाज़ और फिर उससे निकलती कल कल करती पानी की आवाज़, और दूर एक खेत से घास काटती घसियारिन का अपने बेटी को चीख़ कर बुलाने की आवाज़ – हेमवा !!!!, ये सब कानों में सुरमयी तरंगों की तरह गूँज रही थी। मुझे मन कर रहा था की जैसे मैं किसी को बात दूँ कि मैं कितना प्रसन्न हूँ। साँझ ढलते ढलते मेरे दूसरे भी चचेरे भाई बहन आ गए थे और सबके चेहरे पर उस अनकही ख़ुशी को पढ़ पा रहा था मैं। बचपन से किशोरावस्था में पहुँचने के बाद हम सब किसी ना किसी चुनौतियों से जूझ रहे थे और हम एक साथ बैठकर निश्चिन्त ठहाके कब मारे थे ऐसा याद नहीं आ रहा था। हम सब बाहर आम के पेड़ के नीचे वाले अपने अड्डे पर बैठकर ख़ूब हँसी ठहाके किए। परमहंस भैया और योगेन्द्र भैया नहीं आ पाए थे और कुसुम दीदी और राजू दीदी भी अपने ससुराल से नहीं आ पायीं थीं बाक़ी सभी बारह भाई बहन आए हुए थे। हम सबने रेखा दीदी से आग्रह किया तो उन्होंने एक शानदार भजन सुनाया। बचपन में उनका वीणा पर शास्त्रीय गायन का रियाज़ करना अनगिनत बार सुना और हर बार उसकी पवित्रता और दिव्यता से अपने आपको स्तब्ध भी पाया। दीदी के गायन के बाद बारी थी आम के छुकले की जो बीजू दीदी और नीतू दीदी बनाकर लाने वालीं थीं। वाह मज़ा आ गया। अँधेरा हुआ तो अब मंडली पश्चिम वाले कमरें में पुआल बिछाने पहुँच गयी, वहीं हम सबको सोना था। साथ ही दादाजी का कमरा लगा था, दादाजी के मृत्यु के पश्चात उसमें जाने में थोड़ा डर लगता था। उस कमरे में धूल खाती पुस्तकें थीं, रामायण, महाभारत, उपनिषद इत्यादि और दीवारों पर लगे बड़े बड़े तस्वीर भिन्न भिन्न देवी देवताओं के। उसमें भगवान राम की तस्वीर बहुत दिव्य लगती थी। मैंने निर्णय किया की कल सुबह उस कमरें में जाऊँगा। अभी तो हम सब दादीजी से ज़िद करके वो राजकुमारी और नेवले की कहानी सुन रहे थे जिसके सात भाई थे। तभी अचानक बिजली चली गयी और हम सब एक साथ मिलकर चीख़ें। वह चीख़ घबराहट वाली नहीं थी बल्कि हर्ष और उल्लास की थी।
मैं स्नान के बाद दादाजी के कमरें में भगवान राम के उस दिव्या तस्वीर के सामने नतमस्तक खड़ा था। मेरी नज़र बग़ल में लगी भगवान कृष्ण के विराट रूप के तस्वीर के तरफ़ गया। मेरे हाल के अतीत में वामपंथी विचारों ने श्रीकृष्ण भगवान से दूर ही रखा था। लेकिन इस विराट रूप के तस्वीर में कुछ अलग सी बात दिखी मुझे इस बार। यह पहले भी बहुत बार देखी थी मैंने पर इस पहलू पर कभी ध्यान नहीं गया। मैं अपने आध्यात्मिक विमर्श में गोते मारने ही वाला था की गुड़िया चिल्लाते हुए आयी और बोली जल्दी से खाना खा लीजिए नहीं तो ख़त्म हो जाएगा, गौतम आपके हिस्से का कोपर (भूँसे में पकाया हुआ आम) ले लेगा। मुझे बड़ा हर्ष मिलता था जब गौतम या गुड़िया मेरा कुछ लेते हैं तो। खाना खाकर मैं बाहर खाट पर बैठ गया, आम के नीचे जहाँ पहले से ही कुछ लोग थे। धनी चाचा अभी अभी बाज़ार से आए थे और उनके पास आज का लोकल ख़बरों वाला अख़बार गांडीव भी था। मैंने सोचा कल के भारत-पाकिस्तान मैच का रिज़ल्ट तो देख लूँ, पर मुझे निराशा ही मिली क्यूँकि खेलकूद की कोई ख़बर नहीं थी या शायद वह पन्ना ही नहीं था। अख़बार मैं वापस देने ही वाला था की मेरी नज़र अख़बार के अंतिम पन्ने पर छापे एक तस्वीर पर पड़ी। उस तस्वीर को देखकर मेरे दिमाग़ की नसों में जैसे रक्त का संचार तेज़ हो गया, वो सात आठ साल पहले की रात मेरे मन मस्तिष्क में कौंध सा गया जब हम दशहरे की छुट्टियाँ मनाने गाँव आए हुए थे।
रात के क़रीब दस या बहुत ज़्यादा ग्यारह बज रहें होंगे, गाँव में तो ये बहुत देर रात मानी जाती है ख़ासकर दशहरे के समय जब थोड़ी बहुत ठंडक शुरू हो जाती है। हम सब भाई बहन दादी के कमरें में सोने से पहले कुछ डरावनी कहानियाँ सुना कर एक दूसरे के हिम्मत की परीक्षा ले रहे थे। दादाजी को शाँस फूलने की दिक़्क़त थी तो रात में कई बार दादीजी चाय बनाने के लिए उठती थीं। अभी वो चाय बनाने के लिए ही उठी थीं। दादाजी हमें दाँत रहे थे की आधी रात हो गयी है और अभी तक हम सोए नहीं हैं। तभी बग़ल के घर से मुन्ना भैया की पूरे ताक़त से चीख़ने की आवाज़ आयी, “भोला सिंह के इनहाँ डाँका पड़ल हौ”। इतने में दूर कहीं से गोली के धमाके की आवाज़ भी गूँजी जिसने रात के उस मृत सन्नाटें में जान सी फूँक दी थी, गाँव के सारे कुत्ते भी अपनी ज़िम्मेदारी से सजग भौकने लगे। पूरब की तरफ़ झारन चाचा का घर था, ब्राह्मणों के गाँव में एकमात्र भूमिहार परिवार जो ब्राह्मणों के शालीनता के साथ साथ ठाकुरों के शौर्य का भी दावा करते हैं। झारन चाचा ने बिलकुल देर नहीं की और दनादन कट्टा निकलकर एक दो गोली फ़ायर कर दी। वैसे जहाँ डाका पड़ने की सम्भावित घटना घट रही थी वह घर बग़ल के गाँव में थी, क़रीब आधे किलोमीटर दूर। हम सबको दादीजी ऊपर के कमरों में ले जाने लगीं, मैं विवेक और रिंकू जो एक ही उम्र के थे उस समय मुश्किल से दस साल के रहे होंगे। हम तीनो सीधे छत पर पहुँच गए, इस आशा में कि हमें कुछ तो दृश्य देखने को मिले इस संग्राम का। छत के किनारों के दीवारों में जो मुक्के (बड़े छेद) बने थे उनमें से हम बारी बारी झाँक रहे थे, विवेक और रिंकु को तो कुछ नहीं दिखा था लेकिन मेरे काल्पनाशील आँखों ने डाकूवों की टोली को घोड़ों पर सवार तलवार और बंदूक़ के साथ देख लिया था। ये छत के मुक्के हमें क़िले के छेद नज़र आ रहे थे जिसमें से हम तोपों के मुँह निकाल सकते थे शत्रुओं पर बमबारी के लिए। मेरे जीवन के सबसे रोमांचक क्षण थे वो शायद। कुछ देर में शोर शराब बंद हो गया, मुन्ना भैया और झारन चाचा ने भी इतिहास में अपने नाम दर्ज कराने के बाद घर में वापस जा किवाड़ बंद कर लिया था। हम सब भी अपने सोने के बिस्तर पर वापस आ गए थे। डाकू लल्लन सिंह ने अपना काम कर दिया था।
सुबह के चाय पर कल रात की डकैती की घटना के अलग अलग वर्णन हो रहे थे। बाहर चाय के साथ दादाजी के पास खुड़बुड़ चाचा बैठे थे और विस्तार से बात रहे थे दादाजी को कि क्या क्या और कैसे घटित हुआ। उड़ते उड़ते यह भी बात फैल गयी थी की किस तरह से डाकूवों के साथ झारन चाचा ने मुक़ाबला किया और कम से कम एक डाकू को तो अपने कट्टे से घायल कर दिया। जिस बात ने मुझ बच्चे को भी उस समय एक पल के लिए स्तब्ध कर दिया था, वह था, दिनभर उस घृणित कृत्य की भर्त्सना करने के बाद भी अंत में उन डाकूवों को स्वीकार्यता दे देना की यह सब तो ईश्वर की माया है। बल्कि कुछ लोग तो भोला सिंह जिनके यहाँ डाका पड़ा था ,दबे स्वर में उनकी भी आलोचना करने लगे थे। बच्चूलाल कह रहे थे की उसने बहुत ग़लत सलत् तरीक़े से बहुत पैसा बनाया था, और ऐसा तो एक दिन होना ही था। मेरे दादाजी ने कोई श्लोक पढ़ा और कहा कि “जब्बो कौनो चीज़ क अति होई भगवान कौनो ना कौनो रूप में आके बरोब्बर कर दिहन सब”। साँझ होने तक मैं भी इन चर्चाओं से आगे निकल गया था, मेरे दिमाग़ में अब आज रात्रि को महाकाली मंदिर के पास होने वाली रामलीला को देखने की योजना चल रही थी। हम तीन भाई तो जाने ही वाले थे लेकिन हमें कोई एक बड़ा भी चाहिए था जो हमारे साथ चल सके। खुड़बुड चाचा के बेटे संजय भैया भी जाने वाले हैं रामलीला देखने ऐसा हमें पता चला, और यह तो बिलकुल अच्छी ख़बर थी क्यूँकि गाँव के सारे लड़कों में संजय भैया की छवि सबसे अच्छी थी, उनको सब ज़िम्मेदार, सुशील और पढ़ने लिखने वाला एक अच्छा लड़का समझते थे। हमें विश्वास था की उनका नाम बोलते ही दादाजी तैयार हो जाएँगे और हम रामलीला देखने जा सकते हैं। लेकिन हम भ्रम में थे, कल रात्रि की घटना के बाद से सब डरे हुए थे और बिलकुल सख़्ती के साथ मना कर दिया हमें जाने से। आज रामलीला में लंका दहन का पाठ है और उसे हम किसी भी क़ीमत पर देखना चाहते थे। हम तीनो ने निर्णय कर लिया था जाने का चुपचाप चोरी से, भले ही कल डंडे पड़े। हमने गौतम, गुड़िया और सोनी को भी मना लिया था की वह रात में हमारा बचाव करें और किसी को ना बताए कि हम कमरे में नहीं हैं। अपने इस उत्तम योजना के क्रियान्वय का समय आ गया था, रिंकु ने दादाजी का टोर्च उठा लिया उनके बिस्तर के बग़ल से और हम तय समय पर खरपत्तु की दुकान के सामने संजय भैया से जा मिले। टीवी देखना तो हमें मिलता नहीं था लेकिन आज हमने मन भर रामलीला देखा। हमारी आँखें इतनी उत्सुकता से चमक रही थीं कि हमें स्टेज के पात्रों के सिवाय कुछ नहीं दिख रहा था। जब हनुमान जी का पात्र स्टेज के एक कोने से दूसरे कोने तक रस्सी पकड़ कर उड़ने का अभिनय कर रहा था और उसमें जब वह गदे के प्रयोग से अशोक वाटिका के राक्षसों पर प्रहार कर रहा था तो हमें ऐसा प्रतीत हो रहा था मानो स्वयं हमारे इष्ट हनुमानजी ने हमें दर्शन दे दिया हो। रामलीला समाप्त होने तक आधी रात हो गयी थी। हमने उस जगह की जहाँ महाकाली मंदिर है, उसके बारे में तरह तरह की कहानियाँ सुन रखीं थी, लेकिन आज मन बजरंगबली के आशीर्वाद से थोड़ा शक्तिशाली सा अनुभव कर रहा था। संजय भैया हमें जगदीशपुर गाँव के रास्ते के बजाय सीधे खेतों के रास्ते से ले जा रहे थे, उन्होंने कहा इससे हम जल्दी घर पहुँच जाएँगे। हमें क्या था हम उनके साथ निकल पड़े। बीच बीच में सियार की आवाज़ से हमारी हालत पतली हो रही थी लेकिन फिर भी हमें ऐसा विश्वास था कि हमें आज कुछ नहीं होगा। महाकाली मंदिर से हमारा घर क़रीब दो किलोमीटर दूर था और हम क़रीब आधा किलोमीटर ही चलें होंगे की अचानक साथ लगे गन्ने की खेत से बहुत तेज़ सनसनाहट की आवाज़ आयी। जैसे कोई जानवर हमारी तरफ़ तेज़ी से दौड़ता आ रहा हो। ऐसा प्रतीत हो रहा था मानो कोई बड़ा जानवर हमारी तरफ़ भागे आ रहा था। हम सन्न से रह गए थे, दिमाग़ कुछ काम नहीं कर रहा था। मन को हम तसल्ली दे रहे थे की वे गाँव के कुत्ते होंगे और साथ में संजय भैया तो हैं ही जो उसे तुरंत भगा देंगे। एक पल के लिए वह आवाज़ रुकी और इससे पहले की हम साँस में साँस लेते, जो हमने सामने देखा वो हमने कभी स्वप्न में भी नहीं सोचा था की हमारे साथ ऐसा होगा। सामने दो भुजंग कि तरह काले, मध्यम ऊँचाई के घने दाढ़ी वाले दो व्यक्ति हाथ में धारदार हथियार लिए और कंधे पर गठरी बांधे हुए सामने खड़े थे। कल ही लिब्बन बता रही थी कि मँगारी बाज़ार के पास के एक गाँव नेवारी से दो तीन दिन पहले लकड़सूंघवा ने दो बच्चे ग़ायब कर दिए हैं। बच्चों को ग़ायब करने की वारदातें बहुत हो रहीं थी लकड़सूंघवा के द्वारा, जो कोई विषमय लकड़ी सूंघा कर बच्चों को बेहोश करते थे और उन्हें गठरी में बाँध दिन दहाड़े ही उठा ले जाते थे। हमें सामने साक्षात लकड़सूंघवा दिख रहे थे, इनके पास लकड़ी तो नहीं था पर गडाशे दिख रहे थे, गठरी भी थी। हमारी तो घिग्ग़ी बध गयी थी, हम विचार शून्य थे। हमने बड़ी आशा भारी नज़रों से संजय भैया की तरफ़ देखा की शायद वो कुछ करें तो पाया की वो रो रहे थे और हाथ जोड़कर पहले से ही खड़े थे। दोनों में से एक ने अपना हाथ रिंकु की तरफ़ बढ़ाया, हमारी साँसे जैसे थम सी गयी हो। मैंने तो पेशाब भी पर दिया था डर के मारे। हम जय बजरंग बलि का जाप करना शुरू ही कर रहे थे कि उसी समय पीछे से एक ज़ोर से प्रहार की आवाज़ आयी, आवाज़ धातु के बर्तन सी लगी। देखा तो प्रहार उस व्यक्ति पर हुआ था जिसने रिंकु की तरफ़ हाथ बढ़ाया था। हमें लगा जैसे हनुमान जी ने आसमान से ही लोटा फेंककर उस दैत्य को मारा हो। जबतक हम बजरंगबली के दिशा को भाँप पाते हमने पाया की एक विशाल काया के बाज़ुओं में एक लकड़सूंघवा बधा पड़ा था जैसे नागपश में लक्ष्मण फँसे थे, तो दूसरा उस भीमकाय व्यक्ति के वज्र समान घुसें से अधमरा सा गिर गया था। मैंने टोर्च की रोशनी की तुरंत उस दिशा में की और मैंने उस बजरंगबली के दूत के दर्शन किए। वो सफ़ेद पगड़ी पहने हुआ था, उसकी आँखें बड़ी बड़ी और गहरीं थीं, मूछें भीमसेन जैसी रोबदार थीं, उसके नुकिले नाक पर एक बड़ा सा तिल साफ़ दिख रहा था टोर्च के प्रकाश में। उसने ज़मीन पर दोनो को दे पटका और फिर दोनो उठ भागे। संजय भैया ने बारम्बार उन देवदूत को धन्यवाद किया और कहा की आप हमारे लिए आज ईश्वर का अवतार बनकर आए थे। फिर हम सबने निवेदन किया की वो हमें घर तक छोड़ दें। उन्होंने हमें घर के पास वाले टूबवेल तक छोड़ दिया जहाँ से हम बिलकुल भागकर घर गए। घर पहुँचकर हम सीधे चुपचाप बिस्तर पर लेट गए और बजरंगबली को बार बार नमन किया। हमने निर्णय किया की हम यह बात किसी को नहीं बताएँगे।

मैंने गांडीव अख़बार धनी चाचा को पकड़ाया और सीधे दादाजी के कमरे में चला गया। अख़बार के उस तस्वीर को देखने के बाद जो स्मृतियाँ मन में सचित्र आयीं थीं उससे मन थोड़ा विचलित सा हो गया था। अब मैं वापस वर्तमान में तो आ गया था लेकिन मेरे आध्यात्मिक मन को जैसे एक बड़े प्रश्न की कुंजी मिल गयी हो। मैं सीधे दादाजी के कमरे में टाँगे हुए श्रीकृष्ण भगवान के विराट रूप के तस्वीर के सामने जा पहुँचा। उस तस्वीर में कृष्ण भगवान के सैकड़ों मस्तक थे कुछ उन्ही के अवतारों के जैसे राम, वामन, परशुराम, नरसिंह, मत्स्य, वराह इत्यादि के थे, कुछ दूसरे भगवानों के जैसे ब्रह्मा, शिव, हनुमान, गणेश इत्यादि के थे, देवी माँ के भी मस्तक लगे हुए थे उस विराट स्वरूप में। आश्चर्यजनक बात यह थी की इन सबके अलावा राक्षसों, दैत्यों के भी मस्तक भी थे। उनके शरीर में सारे जंगली और पालतू पशु पक्षियों, पेड़ पौधों की तस्वीरें बनी हुई थीं। क्या अर्थ है इस तस्वीर का, आज कुछ समझ में आया है मुझे। हम संसार में अपने संस्कारों और मूल्यों के द्वारा तथा अपने अध्ययन के द्वारा अच्छे और बुरे, सही और ग़लत की पहचान करते हैं, उसी के आधार पर फिर हम पाप, पुण्य का निर्धारण करते हैं, सामाजिक और राजनीतिक तौर पर हम समाज, देश आदि का संविधान भी रचते हैं। फिर हम अपने बनाए अच्छे को ईश्वर से जोड़ लेते हैं, यह ईश्वरीय है, यह दानवीय कृत है, इत्यादि। अगर ईश्वर है तो ऐसा तो नहीं हो सकता कि वह बस हमारी उपासना पद्धति को मानने वाले के लिए ही हो, वह तो चाहे ईसाई हो या मुसलमान हो , या जिनकी धारणा ईश्वर की अलग हो, जो दूसरी उपासना पद्धति को मानते हों उन सबके लिए भी समान रूप से होगा। ईश्वर ब्रह्मांड के कण कण में है, ऐसा तो बचपन से सुनते आए हैं लेकिन कृष्ण के विराट रूप से आज मुझे यह साफ़ दिख रहा था। मुझे दिख रहा था की संसार के अच्छे और बुरे के तात्कालिक खाँचों से ईश्वर का कोई लेना देना नहीं है, वह तो सबके लिए समान है, सबमें समान रूप से विद्यमान है। जब वह सबमें विद्यमान है तो उसका अर्थ यह हुआ की वही सब कुछ नियंत्रित कर रहा है। जिसे हम शायद एक कुक्रित्य कह रहे हों वह ईश्वर के आदेश पर ही हुआ है। एक हत्यारे की आत्मा भी परमात्मा से उतनी ही जुड़ी हुई है जितनी कि हत्या का शिकार व्यक्ति, और फिर उस हत्यारे को सज़ा देने वाले में भी ईश्वर का तत्व हत्यारे से ज़्यादा नहीं होगा। मरने वाला और मारने वाला दोनो ही श्रीकृष्ण ही हैं। महाभारत में भगवान ने अर्जुन को यह ज्ञान दिया था उसका आशय आज समझ आया है। यदि सबकुछ ही इश्वरीय है तो फिर हम जो बैठकर संशय से भरे हुए ईश्वर की विवेचना कर रहे हैं, जो दिन रात किसी ना किसी विषय को लेकर परेशान रहते हैं, वो कौन हैं क्यूँकि हम तो उस दिव्यता की अनुभव नहीं करते जिससे हमें लगे की हम ईश्वर हैं। हम ईश्वर के द्वारा रचे माया के प्रपंच की इकाई हैं। कभी नाटक देखा है, उसमें अभिनय करते सभी पात्र निर्देशक के बने कहानी को जीते हैं। उस कहानी के सभी किरदार निर्देशक की आत्मा ही तो हैं जो किरदार के चरित्र को स्टेज पर जीते हैं। इस सांसारिक संदर्भ में इन किरदारों के चरित्र को ही हम उनका स्वधर्म और अभिनय को कर्म कह सकते हैं। हम वो किरदार हैं जो एक ही निर्देशक अर्थात ईश्वर द्वारा निर्देशित हैं। हम अपने अभिनय में इतने डूब जाते हैं कई बार कि कहानी के क्षेत्र से परे जाने लगते हैं। हमें कहानी में बने रहने के लिए कई बार आवश्यक हो जाता है की हमें याद दिलाया जाए कि हम मात्र एक निर्देशित अभिनेता हैं। चाहे हम नायक हों या खलनायक हम उसी निर्देशक की डोर से बँधे हैं। यह ब्रह्मांड ईश्वर की रची हुई कहानी ही तो है। जब भी कहानी का संतुलन बिगड़ता है तो उसे संतुलित करने के लिए एक नए किरदार की उत्पत्ति की जाती है, जो हमें तात्कालिक नायक दिखता है और संसार रूपी मंच पर जिसे हम अवतार भी कहते हैं। अब कोई यह कह सकता है कि जब सब कुछ ईश्वर के ही है तो ऐसा क्यूँ नहीं की  संतुलन की आवश्यकता ही ना हो जिसके लिए अवतार की आवश्यकता होती है। उसका उत्तर निहित है जीवन और मृत के अंतर में, चैतन्य और अचेतन में। एक निष्क्रिय कण मृत कही जाती है, सृष्टि का रहस्य उसके कर्मता में है। अगर हर कोई साधु संत हो गया तो, सबमें सत्य के प्रति समझौता हो गया हो और कोई अंतर्विरोध ना हो, सब ब्रह्म को प्राप्त हो गए तो कल्पना कीजिए क्या होगा। सृष्टि मृतप्राय ना हो जाएगी। कोई कहानी ही नहीं तो आनंद कहाँ। ईश्वर इसीलिए सृष्टि नामक मंच पर चेतना या प्राण फूंकता है जो कहानी है, इसके लिए शून्य को धन (+) और ऋण (-)  में विभक्त करता है, राजसी, तामसी और सात्विक गुणो में विभक्त करता है। उसके पश्चात इन विभक्त इकाइयों से चरित्रों या यूँ कहें तो धर्मों (रिलिजन नहीं) को रचता है जिनसे फिर कहानी  पात्र या सृष्टि के इकाइयों  निर्माण करते हैं। कहानी चलती रहती है वह नहीं रूकती, किरदार जुड़ते और बिछड़ते रहते हैं।  पहले समेस्टर में में हमें थर्मोडायनैमिक्स पढ़ाया गया जिसके तीनो सिद्धांतों और रसायन विज्ञान के इक्यिलिब्रीयम सिद्धांत को एक साथ देखें तो हमें भगवान श्रीकृष्ण के निम्न श्लोक की घोषणा स्पष्ट सुनाई देती है। 
यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत।

अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानम सृजम्याहम।।

पारित्रनाय साधुनाम विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम।

धर्म संस्थापनार्थाय संभवामि युगे युगे।।

भगवान कृष्ण के पाँचजन्य की गूँज से मन अभी हटा भी नहीं था की बाहर से पिताजी ने धनी चाचा के लिए पानी लाने को कहा। पानी लेकर मैं पहुँचा तो चाचा अख़बार के उसी पन्ने के चित्र को दिखाकर पिताजी को बता रहे थे कि डाकू लल्लन सिंह ने अति कर दिया था, पिछले दस सालों में उसने सौ से ज़्यादा डकैतियाँ कर ली थीं, आज अंत में मारा गया। यह तो होना ही था, भगवान सब बराबर कर देता है। अख़बार पर छापे उसके तस्वीर में उसके चेहरे पर आज भी वही तेज़ दिख रहा था जो मैंने उस रात टोर्च के रोशनी में देखा था।


शैलेंद्र मिश्रा!

Bhojpuri, Saree and the Chappal!! — July 6, 2016

Bhojpuri, Saree and the Chappal!!


Now even I started  worrying of not able to make it in time.This was my first trip to Delhi from Varanasi since the source station has been changed from Varanasi Cantt station to Manduadih which has not only shorten the distance of station from my home but relieved us from enormous Banarasi peak traffic. In the hind-side though, this made us little relaxed and lead us to underestimate the time to reach the station. My father was the one who was most animated in his expressions with all his $#%& adjectives to curse us for making such horrible miscalculation even after his multiple warnings. Since childhood we have been victim of his extra caution for time schedules. It be a family function, travel, our school examination, before time would be an understatement, he always managed to be ‘well before time’.

After sometime we got over the nervousness of being late, but another interesting topic started to cause little disappointment. This was to do with the insecurities to loose the window seat or the lower berth which we managed to reserve this time. Trust me, being able to reserve lower berth is like a small victory but it is painful too. Painful, because apart from a little momentary joy it also provides lot of insecurities of loosing it to some other ‘needy’ (mostly a lady or an old person) who would request you without slightest of hesitation. I could never deny someone, but many a times I really wanted to enjoy the window seat and this was one of those occasions. So I was hoping that we do not have any old or lady co passenger in our compartment.

At last we made it and we still had nine minutes for train’s departure. We did not have lot of time for my mother’s emotional exchanges which she would always do while we all sit in the compartment during our waiting time. Mind you, these exchanges are not in terms of words but lies in her constant speechless stare at me in last few minutes. During my college days, I used to wish a quick farewell and that my parents leave as soon as possible, and if possible they do not come inside compartment but say good bye on the station platform only.But now, I have made a point that my mother should get a chance to sit in the train compartment. Yes, those last minute vatsalya-full stare of her is treasure for me but there is something else, due to which I wanted her to spend sometime in the train.

Since childhood I have observed that the only time mother would interact outside family would be for monthly grocery shopping in the nearby market. I have clear memory of, when I was hardly six years old and she was in command not only as a mother but also as my guru (teacher). I would be going out for shopping with her,  she would be holding my hand. I remember it very clearly, she used to be very confident and excited about her responsibility to do this shopping . She was interactive and fairly confident lady, at least to the extent that it was a non issue. As we grew and started going to school, she used to pick and drop us for school. This remained her only interaction with the outer world for quite some time. When we further grew and went in higher classes in school, we started being conscious about our status displayed through our dress, school bags, our own appearances and ………. through our parent’s appearances. We always thought our father was quite a good looking person, he used to dress well. Even though he used to ride bicycle but considering the government officer he was, it only reflected that he was an honest officer. The only problem for which we would avoid him in school was, what if he scolds in front of classmates and that too in Bhojpuri. This is interesting but true, somehow bhojpuri speaking has been treated as a sign of backwardness. Anyways, our mother on the other hand was not a well educated woman, she went to school only till 5th class. She could speak khadi Hindi but certainly was not comfortable in it. She always preferred speaking in bhojpuri. She never had much of aesthetic sense. She never showed slightest of eagerness to look good. While going out of home, the only thing she would always do, would be to comb her hair properly. On certain occasions like marriage etc, she would wear one of those saree which she did not wear on daily basis. She had very few sarees in her wardrobe. The only occasion she might get a new saree would be on Teej festival which she would directly put in almirah. She would usually wear a very ordinary chappals , infact the only pair she had for many years.

I was very close to my mother, I used to share with her about all my friends, school incidents and she would know everyone. Whenever any of my friend would come to our home I could notice how  keen she would be to see my friends and talk to her. I do not remember any instance, when I or my sister (we two were more conscious about our appearances, our younger brother was cool and relatively indifferent to these issues) ever expressed to our mother, at least in words that she might be causing embarrassment to us in our socials. We could never do that because we also realized her value as the best mother in the world very early in a relatively very tender age. But at the end we were an aspirant modern growing kids and we were not as good a son or daughter which we should have been and over the years she probably got the message that she is an embarrassment.

With time, she would now rarely go out or even interact with guests at home including our friends. She would remain behind the curtain, peeking from there to have a look at my friends and give a face to her imaginations about my friend as per what I had told her. She would avoid talking to them unless they specifically come out of guest room and talk to her. Very soon everyone at home started noticing her awkwardness not with empathy but  with unspoken demand that she should attend guests whenever required. No one cared about what was going on inside her, probably even she did not know about the same or cared for it. She quietly started putting effort to interact with guests or others she would meet in the best possible manner as she could. She was tentative and conscious about the way she would speak and always was under pressure of being judged by all of us. We would actually tease her, joke about her and she would laugh about it along everyone of us. I still remember instances when I with my head in her lap would be telling her about mothers of my friends.How educated, good looking or smart they are, and how at times they would come to school and speak to principal. And this appreciative account of friend’s mother to my mother was very innocent and not at all with any suggestive purpose. But at the same time I was not matured enough or sensitive enough towards mother to realize how could this be received by her.

While she was trying to come to the level of everyone’s expectations, she was not even close to what she used to be while we were little kids. Hold on, or may be she appeared good then (when we were little kids) because it was us who were non-judgmental about her then. She had been all the same in how she spoke, in what she wore and how she looked, but it is us who discovered new worldly  good and bad, definition of worthy and non-worthy and during the course of time conveyed this to her slowly through our behavior and attitude. I never remember her, complaining of not having a good saree or about not looking great. I could never sense any urge for appreciation, I am sure she also had some understanding of beauty as she would also have wished being appreciated for her looks during her youth. The only moments I could recollect when she reacted or responded about aesthetics is, when someone had appreciative words about us, her children that we look very good. She could never hide the happiness of me, my sister or my brother being called as very good looking. She never accepted that I am loosing hair but was clearly worried in private. The point is, she never desired any worldly material or egoistic satisfaction for herself to seek happiness, but at the same time she desired everything for her children.

I had always been appreciated by my neighbors, teachers and relatives about my behavior, the way I respected everyone, about kindness I would display towards others, about my intelligence and the moral standards I stood for. Though my father managed to avoid any visible response in terms of pride or happiness to such appreciations, my mother was always elated and visibly very happy. I was indeed good to everyone and took this on myself to remain as a reason of pride to my mother. The only person with whom I was not so good has been my mother, whom I could afford to take for granted. Over the years, I still enjoy the reputation of being her ‘Ram‘ as she propagates while hiding my short comings and not exposing my ‘not so good’ behavior towards her. I have realized that I am not the ‘Ram’ whom my mother took pride in once and which has changed into just a pretense now. Juhi, (my wife) ever since she became part of our family has made a point that we have to change the whole narrative. I have to become the Ram who could reignite the pride of mother and more importantly mother has to be brought from the back seat to the very front where she is made to believe that she is the driver of this family and she is the one who has the most important say in the family affair. Juhi could very quickly understand the emotional need of my mother. Actually we all did understand, but we probably lacked in understanding the actionable items which would immediately translate into boosting her confidence. Juhi could spot her curious childish eyes when she is outside home. She took her on flight to travel from Bangalore to Delhi. It was her first flight and even though she was not physically expressive about her excitement but her eyes certainly were curious like a child. Juhi made sure that my mother had a say while shopping for my brother’s marriage. She at times teaches her about new things but never demands her to follow the same from next time onward. Juhi has proven to be Sita to my mother and now it is my turn to become the lost Ram.

Whenever I would come home from outstation, mother would always be there on gate to greet me. She would always find the train/flight schedule and accordingly would be standing at the house entrance. Likewise whenever I leave home for outstations, she would always come to bid farewell at railways station or the airport. I usually did not like her coming as every time, irrespective of how frequent my travel would be, she would always be emotional and tearful. Leaving her, for me too, irrespective of the frequency  is always very painful. But slowly I also realized that this becomes her only outing in a while. This is when she interacts to the outer world, she gets to see unfamiliar faces, she observes people with so much of curiosity and many times very childishly reacts on them too. Now, we make sure that she always gets to drop us at station. During this time, we too constantly look at her, observe her childish eyes and draw some satisfaction. Last few minutes are kept for her to stare at her child with motherly eyes.

I asked mother to come inside the train as we still had nine/ten minutes for the train to depart. She came inside and sat on the side seat while waiting. She scanned through all the co passengers about whom she would later tell us on phone. She suggested us to put our bag under the seat near the window, away from aisle to avoid any theft in the night. Now it was time for the train to leave and I wanted my parents to get down from the train within comfortable time, to avoid any hassle. I touched her feet for her blessings and noticed the new branded chappal which Juhi has bought for her recently, felt good about it. I then pleaded her to take care of herself…..I spoke these words in ‘bhojpuri’. She was choked enough to notice my bhojpuri, what is a big deal about it after all. She then responded and said she will be okay, but pleaded me to take care of myself and not be ignorant about my health….She spoke these words in ‘khadi Hindi’ and not in bhojpuri.

They got off the train, and the train slowly left the station. I went to the train entrance but hid myself, or else she would remain there watching me. She was convinced that she would not see me, she started walking away. I then leaned from the gate and saw her from behind. I could see her, in that yellow saree (which at last she took out), in that recently bought new chappal. She suddenly shouted and asked my father to walk little slowly. This time she spoke in bhojpuri.

Shailendra Mishra


My Vivekananda Moment! — October 30, 2015

My Vivekananda Moment!


The ‘Uber’ application popped up the booked cab details. The name of the driver was interesting, ‘Nek’. While I was struggling to button my shirt in a rush, my mind afforded to spend little time to acknowledge the uniqueness of this name. The first impression which flashed in my mind was, it is ‘Nick’ and somehow got misspelled in the Uber application. Just before I could conclude it is Nick, I questioned myself why can’t it be Nekchand with ‘Chand’ chopped off from the application for lack of space. By then, I was done with buttoning my shirt and concluded the little momentary ‘Vimarsh’ by saying to myself…whatever!

Do you want the air conditioner be turned on sir? Nek asked me. This to me meant, he did not want to switch on AC and was hoping to hear the same from me. By the way winters has started showing its sign, so I was more or less okay without AC. Just that I got an initial impression that Nek is quick to grab any opportunity to save money, and it is fine to me. I asked him to close the window wherever we encounter dust.

Shall I turn on the FM radio sir? Nek turned back and asked. Why would I mind it, go ahead and play it. We were still at the red light; Nek could afford to turn back again. I see you are reading a book which is why I thought I should ask you, he said. I responded, it is okay, listening songs is better than listening to not so musical traffic. By the way what book are you reading sir?

It was 12.10 PM, I checked the time while I was reading those lines from my favorite book.

भोग न होने से त्याग नहीं होत. पहले भोग करो, फिर त्याग होगा . स्वामी बोले, “हुआ क्या? लोग सन्यासी तो हो नहीं पाये, अगृहस्थ हो गये. कर्म – जो उनका धर्म था – से विमुख हो गये. सारे के सारे लोग, वस्त्रो से तो सन्यासी हो गए; किन्तु उनका मन सन्यस्त हो नहीं सका. उसके लिए अपेक्षित तपस्या – कर्म तपस्या, तो किसी ने की नहीं थी. वे न इधर के रहे न उधर के.

“पर भगवान बुद्धा ने तो उन्हें मोक्ष मार्ग ही दिखाया था. तो फिर ये उत्पात कैसे हो गया?”

“जिस समय बौद्ध राज्य में एक एक मठ में एक एक लाख साधु हो थे, उस समय देश अपने सर्वनाश की ओर अग्रसर हो रहा था।” स्वामी कुछ आवेश में बोले, “बौद्ध, जैन, इशाई, मुस्लमान – सभी का ये भ्रम है कि सारे मनुष्यों के लिए एक ही कानून और एक ही नियम है.

English Translation:  If there is no enjoyment how can there be sacrifice? Do pleasures, and then do sacrifice. Swami said, “What happened? People could not become monks and rather abstained from family life while pretending to do sacrifice. Karma – which was their faith & duty, they became alienated from. All of the people became monks through their attire, but their mind could not attain monkness. No one could perform the required level of discipline. They are neither here nor there.

“The Lord Buddha showed them the way to salvation. Then why it lead to spiritual chaos?”

“At the time of peak of Buddhism, millions and millions of people became monks and monastery grew in size but it witnessed the start of the decline of the country and soon restoration to Dharmic traditions.” Swami said in a huff, “Buddhist, Jain, Christianity, Islam all had been in the illusion that all human issues can be addressed by same laws and the same rules.

I was reading the very interesting commentary on world religions by Swami Vivekananda, especially on Buddhism and was in no mood to leave it for tomorrow. But honestly it was too late, considering I had to beat the peak traffic to reach office in time.

This is a novel based on Vivekananda’s life, I responded to curious Nek. Nek said – Oh great, I draw lot of inspiration from him. I spotted his picture on the book cover, so asked you. By the way, he was an Aryasamaj saint right? He asked in anticipation of my confirmation of this fact. I was on the edge of ridiculing his claim of drawing inspiration from Vivekananda but his query about Swami’s association with Aryasamaj made me little curious. The fact is, during his college days Vivekananda used to participate in Aryasamaj meetings. After he met Ramakrishna Paramhans, his quest for absolute got him on the decisive odyssey and he disassociated himself from Aryasamaj. I was not at all ready to counter a cab driver curious to engage in a discussion about one of the greatest philosopher and spiritual master. He was told a half truth, I immediately presumed he belonged to Aryasamaj and he might have been told so by the representatives of Aryasamaj.

He is the one who rejected idol worship right, Nek insisted. Now I got it, Vivekananda’s picture resembles to that of Dayananda Saraswati who started Aryasamaj and worked against idol worship in the society. This might be the reason why Nek got confused with Vivekananda’s stand. Anyways, I clarified to him, it is not so. Vivekananda started with asking questions over so many things including idol worship but during his spiritual journey he not only got his answers but through his works restored the faith of many in Hindu Dharma.

By then both of us were clear about each other’s sides. Nek suddenly declared, he is an Aryasamaj follower. His spontaneity in making this confession suggested that he was anticipating few words of criticism for Aryasamaj from me. Ok great, so you do not believe in idol worshiping, I asked the redundant question, just to extend the conversation on the same topic. While he was answering to confirm he is against idol worship, I had simultaneously fired another question, what is it which makes you so critical of idol worshiping? It is superstition, how can one treat a lifeless object as God, which he himself manufactures and then sells and buys. Isn’t it amusing, he chuckled. Nek did not stop at this; he extended his argument by declaring Ram, Krishna and Shiva as non-Gods. At best they could be great human beings who achieved greatness through their deeds during their lifetime. There is only one absolute Paramatman (God) who is formless and omnipresent!  God is supreme and cannot be bound to an idol or a human body for that matter. These words coming from a cab driver was heartening, irrespective of my agreement or disagreement with him. He sounded convinced about what he spoke. I was sure it was not a mugged up speech about what he was taught by his masters. He appeared to have put in some thought over it.

What is it, which you are calling as “Paramatman” (Super Consciousness)? We all are Atman, right? So how is Paramatman different from that of mine or your Atman, of course if you think it is different? I bombarded with couple of questions for Nek. The idea was not to seek answers from him but to draw his attention to a line of thought which I proactively designed for him. Nek was intelligent enough to make out, I was playing with words. He answered; we all are Atman but not Paramatman. For a while he paused, but in fear of getting caught in the game of words he added – Only a Shuddha (Pure) Ataman can be graduated to be called as Paramatman. What is a Shuddha Atman (pure consciousness) then, I further inquired. One which is pure by his/her conducts, who has purity in thoughts and deeds, he said. What is a pure deed or thought, I was not ready to leave it at that. Nek was quick to respond, it is being truthful, honest and compassionate in one’s behavior and conduct. So now you have conceded that there are number of Paramatman, one which you initially declared of being formless and then there are few among us human beings who through their Shuddha karma (pure deeds) could graduate to become Paramatman. And since you agreed, there cannot be one absolute formless Paramatman as per your original definition. For that matter any number, including ‘one’ rules out the subject being formless or being omnipresent. If it is measured in number, it means it has to be defined so clearly that its existence be secured from other things/subjects around, to the extent that one can clearly recognize and say – here it is. Only ‘infinite’ and ‘zero’ can claim to be formless.

At last Chhatarpur red light turned into green and we could take the right turn. The turn helped Nek to have his moment to ponder and come up with something to counter me. Probably it was too short for him to collect his thought and invent something but he at least tried to clear his stand very honestly. Sir, I am little puzzled in those words and because I am not educated enough I am unable to explain what I meant. But one thing I am clear about is my basic understanding which is – Paramatman is one, formless and omnipresent.

Honestly, I felt bad for I made him feel inferior for his lack of education. Nek, first of all let me clarify that you have more knowledge than many of the so called educated. It is not the knowledge but the constantly thinking mind, is what matters and I see you can think. I was asking these questions to partly trap you in your own arguments but more so to logically explain to you about ‘Paramatman’ through your own criteria. Mind you, what I am telling is what I could understand by applying logics and little bit of my imagination, which means it is certainly not the absolute explanation of Paramatman. It can be best understood or known through experience which we are far from, at the moment. I started explaining to him; you are correct in your understanding that Paramatman is formless and omnipresent. If one has to point out one single thing which has supremacy over every particle of this universe it has to show the first characteristic of having control over everything, to have control over everything would mean to have presence in everything. It is like we can control our own body but not other’s body. In other words, we are conscious of our body and is called Atman, so one whose consciousness extends to the whole universe will be called as Paramatman (Param + Ataman; ‘Param’ means extreme). You would agree then; Paramatman is in me, in you, in all the ‘Shuddha’ Atman and also in all the so called ‘Ashuddha’ (Impure) Atman. We can further stretch this and say that there is nothing called as ashuddha Atman, how can it be, if is the constituent of Paramatman.

So, how do you explain all these sins committed by human beings or should I say by Paramatman. He made a sarcastic remark. If I commit a sin, why should I not hold Paramatman responsible for that….by your logic? I realized Nek is not an easy nut. It was now my turn to take a pause, not that I did not have answer but I was thinking, how to explain it to him in the simplest manner so that he can understand.

Do you watch cricket, I am sure every Indian does. I asked the question and answered myself anticipating what if he doesn’t, I would lose a very good example I could think of in that moment. India versus Pakistan must be everyone’s favorite encounter. When the match is played between the two teams on the field, the teams need to express their cricketing skills against each other. Shoib Akhtar would bowl his best bouncer to Sachin to get him out and Sachin would certainly not appreciate it. He would counter with best of his ability to hook the ball out of the fence. On the field whatever players would do, would purely be against the opposite team. A player might do awful thing on the field, possibly against the cricket rule and he would be punished by cricketing community for that. You can call it a cricketing sin right. The player committed the sin because he played cricket. Should this be interpreted that, to avoid making the awful sins let us respect each other’s team and not play the game? The moment all the world cricket teams realize they all are same and decide to not play against each other, that very moment ‘cricket’ would disappear from the world. Nek, if teams are Atman, Cricket is the Paramatman. India cannot become world champion of cricket (Paramatman in cricketing sense) without playing it against other teams. If you extend the cricket field to this world or universe, you would realize that it is nothing but the manifestation of Paramatman. The ‘worldly’ goods and bads are the playful expression of Paramatman.

I realized that Nek was liking this conversation, infact he reduced the speed of the car considerably. I liked it too. I have just one confusion then, if everyone has that Paramatman in them, how did Ram and Krishna have special mention? This to me was relatively easy one to answer, I could just say, “in each class there is one best student” but I was looking for some other example which can help to address this question to its root. I decided to take my previous example of cricket for this one too. Ever since this game of cricket has been played there have been thousands of players who played it and hundreds out of them played it very well. But there have been very few, could be counted on fingers, whom you would credit for defining the way it is played. Everyone in cricket would aspire to come close to the benchmark of excellence set by them. One can say – while other players played it for the need of their cricketing instincts but these legends played it for the need of taking the world’s cricket to next level, or to evolve cricket to next level. Their impact is not just reflected in their record books but on many generations of world cricket. Likewise Ram and Krishna are not just conscious of their human body but are the best possible expression of Paramatman through a human body. When Krishna showed his ‘Virat Roop’ (supreme form), Arjun could see everything of the universe manifested through Krishna which included the Gods and the demons both. Even today there are Yogis on Himalayas who have attained Yogic power which makes them conscious beyond their physical body. Just for logical purposes and in lack of perfect word, you can say Ram and Krishna had similar Yogic power beyond any limitation. For few these attributes qualify them to be called as Paramatman.

We reached the destination but the curious Nek asked one more question and promised me that this would be the last. Could you clarify me, if we are Paramatman in ourselves why should one worship an idol? You are very intelligent Nek. I would only say, one who knows and who can experience that Paramatman in them, certainly do not need to worship an idol. Suddenly I recalled one incident cited in the very book which I was reading. Vivekananda faced similar question from the king of Khetari state. I thought it was the best way to explain to him. Do you keep pictures of your grandfather or any of your loved ones? I am sure you would not spit on those pictures despite knowing it well that these are just piece of papers. You somehow see your loved ones in those pictures, right? When you see the national flag, you feel something. You respect it because you treat it symbolizes your motherland. Nek, you are a wonderful thinker and I feel you have potential to see Paramatman in everyone, so you might not need to worship an idol but different people have different ways of thinking and imagining the Paramatman. Everyone is different from each other and so is their way of looking at the world, which also reflects in their understanding of Paramatman. You can say that the understanding that Paramatman is formless and is present in every particle of universe is the ultimate concept but question is how many have the ability to comprehend the absolute truth. I explained to you about this concept but honestly speaking even I do not possess the capability to live it. Knowing it is altogether different from experiencing and living this concept. The moment one reaches that point, the ‘Aham’ (Ego) will loosen itself to merge with the absolute to become ‘Bramhan’. All those preachers you see on TV, speaking fluently about the absolute truth, none have this capability. But not having this capability is not a sin, nor could it be achieved in a moment. It requires honest/open mind, lot of thinking, believing, imaginative ability, creativity and lot of practice through truthful conduct to reach to that level. And all these cannot start in lack of a symbol. I mean a thought also is in terms of various symbols. When a child is born, he/she is attributed with a name to recognize its individuality. What is it? nothing but a symbol. We are not our names but ‘Atman’, manifestation of ‘Paramatman’. The civilization came into the picture on the premise of symbols. So now, I guess you would have understood that to reach the ultimate truth you have to start from basic knowledge. In order to graduate in mathematics, you have to take admission in class 1 to learn about numbers one, two, three… about alphabets ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’ etc. By the time one reaches to high school the mathematical sums get more complex. In order to solve them we start using algebra, mathematical induction. We start by assuming the answer be ‘X’ and then step by step reach to the resolution and get to know the true value of ‘X’. One has to start with ‘Dvaita’ to reach to ‘Advait’. The Hindu Dharma has provided enormous flexibility and freedom, to choose your way of knowing Paramatman and hence expressing your devotion and love for him. We have the freedom to choose our own personal Gods which can help in our endeavor for truth. A poor farmer in a village can worship a tree if he derives his devotion – pure expression of love through that. Why should he wait to have the absolute knowledge before he performs his karma? He must be least bothered to know more if his spiritual quest is satisfied with his devotion for the neighboring tree and the stone formation lying under it. Everyone in the society need not be a seer or a scientist. Every individual is different, hence different Dharma for different individuals. Hey Nek, by the way, by Dharma I do not mean the English word ‘Religion’, and now I do not have time to explain the difference between Dharma and religion. Very quickly, ‘Dharma’ is to do with your personal duty. I am getting late for the office, but it was very nice talking to you. Nek responded with a very humble look at me with a momentary silence and then said, thank you very much sir for explaining those things in such a manner. I would love to meet you again if possible. Thanks a lot. I smiled and rushed for the office.

I called Juhi in the evening and shared with her about the ‘Nek’ thing happened in the morning. While telling her about this, I sensed a little pride within myself. I was feeling proud of the fact that I could convince someone with so much of clarity. I was appreciating and congratulating myself in my subconscious mind for ‘My’ intellect. Suddenly Nek flashed in my mind, I realized he was better placed than me in terms of loosening his “Ego” to know. Though I consider myself having worked well enough on my ego but I observed a sign of pride in me, of knowing in that moment which contributed to an enhanced ‘Ego’.

This was “My Vivekananda Moment” to realize the “Ego” of knowing which drags one away from the known.

Shailendra Mishra



Independence Day…Really?? — August 15, 2015

Independence Day…Really??


When I was a kid, I used to be very excited on 15th August for many reasons. The first and foremost was that magnetic & magical element in the air which made all of us feel good. It really provided sense of celebration of a kind. There was this feeling of patriotism about which I am not sure how much I knew and could articulate then, but it was very much there while hearing the patriotic songs from every household. There was this sweets distribution in the school as part of celebration, followed by the acquittal from the usual classes to allow us to play cricket in B.H.U playground. The day used to get perfect ending with the movie ‘Shaheed‘ or ‘Upkaar‘ on DD national in the evening which was allowed to watch.

As I grew, I learnt and experienced the world around me. While the patriotism in the form of proud Bharatiya/Indian remained, the excitement got a dent due to a certain cynicism crept in my mind. Let me express my cynicism through few questions in my mind. 

What does this independence mean? Independence of whom and from whom and in what respect? The answer of 1st question lies in the answer of 2nd question. The second one leads to a broader and philosophical but continuous quest of understanding the identity called Indian, Bharatiya or Hindustani. While in the process of trying to understand this identity and at the same time having an eye on the current affairs in the country one may certainly get trapped in the next question which is –  how relevant or irrelevant is this emotion called ‘patriotism’ in the context of Independence day celebration?

I am not knowledgeable enough to have answers to all these questions but there are few things which I could understand in all these years. 15th August 1947 is not the day when Bharat came into existence. It would be naive to think like that. We always existed as one of the greatest civilization, as one of the most diversed and intellectually sophisticated culture. Bharat existed as one of the most diverse landscape and as an unique society where the respect earned by an individual was not directly proportional to the material wealth one owned. Bharat existed as the only land with the tradition of propagating mutual respect and not ‘tolerance’ as Mr Rajiv Malhotra rightly observed. Yes, on this day of 15tg Aug 1947 we got recognized by the world as a political and geographical entity called India. On this very day we were considered to have evolved as ‘good enough’ in guidance of Britishers to be able to manage our affairs and so the rein was handed over to people of this land. So, by worldly definition….oops by ‘western definition’ this could be called as independence day. Let me clarify that I am not ridiculing this date and I honestly feel that it is one of the important milestones in our history and it witnessed a huge achievement in the contemporary world. I very much value and welcome the emotions aroused on this day and concede that at least there is one such day in an year when most of us get a sense of oneness beyond every other sub-identities. The only problem I feel is that our patriotic emotions are over dependent on this date, occasional cricket victories and/or celebrating success of a Bollywood movie. And none of these can be a sustainable basis of this pious emotion if tested on an intellectual vimarsh (deliberation). I mean if this date remains as the only hing of our patriotism it would be the vindication of western definition of our nationhood which is less to do with the common thread of our values and traditions which we share but is about the collection of many countries/states as one through geographical arrangement. And I am not ready to accept that. Truth has many ways of manifestation and I concede that this is one of the very valid occasion of expressing and celebrating ‘Bharatiyata’. But unless we progress further, beyond these annual symbolism and tokenism and discover our own intellectual manifestation, we will continue to lack the most important aspect of Bharatiyata which deals with our roots and most wonderful value system. Most of our intelligentsia at the moment appear to be highly influenced by western philosophies, thanks to their educational training and their intellectual associations. The intellectual discourse has been dominated by western eye to the extent that our goods and bads are derived and measured in a framework which clearly fails to encompass major Bharat. There does not seem to have any organic connection between current intelligentsia and rest of Bharat. If one start following the TV studio discussions, he/she would soon be able to make out the hypocrisy of the intellectuals through their commentary on varied subjects and issues. These intellectuals are very  sophisticated and logical while putting up their point of view, they are very convinced about their intellectual supremacy and the intellectual backwardness of the common Bharatiya. The mainstream discourse has been occupied by the western rational thinking and English language has taken the space of communication to the extent that it has become more than just a medium of communication but a symbol of knowledge. This has almost convinced the common Bharatiya of being inferior. The common Bharatiya is left outside the main circle, struggling to first learn the sophistication required which is the eligibility to debate them. The problem of logic and so called western ‘rational thinking’ is that it is too linear to be able to address the widespread, complex but wonderfully designed subjectivity of our value system. Let me reiterate that I am not for once suggesting to eliminate western rational outlook to our society. This can certainly be one of the many perspectives and surely would help in its evolution but it cannot be the main discourse to decide the fate of it. One can easily find many political debates in media representing varied political voice with sharp disagreements but have you ever seen any non political intellectual discourse in our media which represent varied point of view with sharp disagreements. You would not, as this space has been conveniently reserved for certain kind of  western rationalists. Rarely the space is shared with one who has other point of view. On the contrary our own tradition has inbuilt mechanism of scrutiny of the social evolution with diverse perspectives.

Let me expose the paradoxical stand of the western rationalist. The main argument of the so called modern thinking intervention in Bharatiya discourse is to save it from its diversity and pluralism. While doing so, they extend their argument in various walks of life and tend to convince us about absurdity of our customs and traditions therefore influencing the society to become objective and rational. In this whole exercise they end up pretending as the savior of human rights, individual freedom and what not. And the evolved so called intelligents of the society get convinced about the backwardness of our values and traditions. Some are left confused between the aspiration of being part of modern mainstream and their love/faith in their forefather’s values which they have lived so far but fail to explain to the so called moderns. Then there are many whose faith is so strong that if they fail to explain it intellectually they become violent and unreasonable. There are very rare few who understand the big picture, who know the inner strength of our values which is self sufficient to do internal cleansing as and when required as has been done in past too. These fews have the intellectual strength to stand and explain. But these very few are either marginalized or they themselves tend to avoid participating in a dialogue or debate and carry on with their routine life. Coming back to hypocritical part of the rationalists, let us now construct a sample group of so called modern and rationalists from our society. Let me help to identify the qualified individuals to be part of this sample – the likes of anchors of mainstream T.V media, the forward thinking and very vocal film stars, likes of Shobha Dey, Suhail Seth, Tushar Gandhi, N Ram, human right activists, left party members and there are countless such people who would be eminent members of this sample. Now just navigate through their point of views, their personal lifestyle, their beliefs, their routine etc. Let me now ask, how much diverse they are in their life and would you consider this sample as the ambassador of diversity? I have a very small sample of one of my watsapp group which is way more diversed in how we live our life.

If independence is brought to be analyzed in this context, I strongly feel we are yet to be independent of the western mantra of universalism (borrowed this term from Rajiv Malhotra) which may sound little similar to our ‘Vasudhaiv kutumbakam’ mantra but is not. Before explaining how it is not the same, let me emphasize that to claim independence one need to first prove its identity in terms of how it is different from the one from whom it is claiming to be independent.  The difference between ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam’ as against the western rational universalism is as follows. Our traditional mantra of ‘whole world is our home’, talks about an organic evolution as is inherent in transformation from Dvait to Advait philosophy which starts with approving of diverse paths and beliefs even if they are contradictory. The western universalism is about ridiculing and disapproving the local traditional values and forcing the society being modern thinking, of common set of believes of rational thinking with the sole motivation being materialistic well being of the individuals.

I invite my Bharatiya friends to have a relook and rethink over our own value system, to know it and then become truly independent of the western framework so that we be mutually respectful to each other rather than being tolerant of each other. Let us aspire for the prosperity and happiness of all of  us rather than chasing the material well being. Let us all try to be selfless to at least some extent by allowing the personal duties take little precedence over personal rights. Satyamev Jayate!

Shailendra Mishra


References:, Being Different authored by Rajiv Malhotra

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